Six Nations: France beat England with late converted try in Paris
Gael Fickou scored a try four minutes from time as France beat England 26-24 in a Six Nations thriller in Paris.
Last Updated: 02/02/14 2:10pm
France went ahead after just 30 seconds through Yoann Huget and the winger added a second try midway through the first half as the hosts built up a 16-3 lead.
England hit back through Mike Brown's try just before the half and Luther Burrell's debut try and a drop-goal from Danny Care saw the visitors edge 21-16 ahead.
But Maxine Machenaud's penalty 10 minutes from time set up a thrilling finale and a superb multi-phase move was finished by Toulouse centre Fickou under the posts, with Machenaud kicking the match-winning conversion.
France produced the best half-hour of the Philippe Saint-André era to start the game but progressively ran out of steam against an England side that went from strength to strength.
France dominated at scrum time but England will harbour a number of regrets having seen their pack take the game by the scruff of the neck and dominate most of the second half.
France got off to the perfect start when Huget latched onto a grubber from debutant fly-half Jules Plisson, and raced in after just 32 seconds.
Jean-Marc Doussain missed the conversion and Owen Farrell pulled a penalty back for England before Doussain hit the target with his second kick at goal to leave France 8-3 ahead at the end of a gripping opening 10 minutes.
The frantic pace continued as Huget bagged his second try of the first quarter. The French wing eluded a poor tackle from Alex Goode before passing inside to Brice Dulin, whose chip ahead bounced favourably for his flying team-mate.
Again Doussain missed the conversion but found the mark shortly afterwards as France's superiority at the scrum earned a penalty that gave the hosts a 16-3 lead.
England finished the half strongly however, and Brown's try just before the break kept his team alive. Danny Care took the bold decision to run a very kickable penalty but he linked with Billy Vunipola and Brown beat three defenders, stretching an arm out over the whitewash in the corner.
Farrell missed the conversion but England came out of the dressing room after the interval breathing fire.
Care was denied a try when he was held inches short of the line but Farrell reduced the gap to five points with a penalty.
England drew level after the irrepressible Vunipola bust through the French defence before offloading to Burrell, who could cruise in untouched under the sticks.
Farrell's conversion gave England the lead for the first time as France's fast start seemed like a distant memory.
A cheeky drop-goal from Care - with a penalty coming - ensured England got something for their sustained pressure as the hosts' composure disintegrated.
Machenaud and Goode traded penalties but although England clearly held the upper hand, they were unable to land the killer blow as Tom Youngs failed to find his jumpers at a line-out five metres out, letting a golden opportunity slip by.
With the game hanging in the balance and France finally finding some attacking poise, Dimitri Szarzewski bolted into space, held his line before finding Fickou, who dummied past Goode to score under the posts and leave Machenaud with an easy conversion.